It’s 3 a.m. in Lower (make that Outer) Hillcrest: do you know where your honey is?
Mine is hunched over a small black notebook, scribbling feverishly, like maybe he’s transcribing information coming into an antenna embedded in his brain. I peek over his shoulder and see hundreds of numbers in rows and columns. There are letters, too, with parenthesized hieroglyphics — multi-directional arrows, punctuation marks — beside them. One wide-open eye, circumferenced by stubby lashes, like a child would draw, gives me a spooky, maniacal stare.
Registering my presence, sweetheart turns to me and says proudly, “I’ve developed a system.”
“And my additional skills are really improving,” he adds with a weary grin.
I don’t have any idea what he’s talking about, and am doubtful that he does either.
“I think you need sleep.”
In the morning, coffee in hand, I open my laptop. The screen is all numbers. Great, I think, the computer’s broken. But no: the browser was left open. There are names, in blue, at the left side of the screen. Brushing away sleep, seeking recognition, I find Ortiz. And Youkilis, and Lowell. Renteria, Pujols, Ramirez. I cringe and stop at Jeter. This must be what he was talking about the other day, when he had come over and said, “I hope you’re ready.”
“Ready for what?”
“Fantasy Baseball. Spring training starts in two weeks.”
My first — and last — brush with fantasy baseball, a couple of years ago, resulted in a nasty fight over my unwillingness to blindly follow a seemingly arbitrary no-calling policy that was explained by only three precious little words: “It’s draft day.”
With between 15 million and 18 million people participating in fantasy sports nationwide every year, there’s a good chance you know — or even live with — someone who either has been or will soon be flipping channels and checking stats with compulsive regularity.
The concept is simple: Join a league of team owners, assemble and manage a fictional dream team of real players. Spend every other waking second studying games and statistics. Trade, drop, and pick up accordingly. Scoring can be complicated, but nowadays is handled largely by computers. There’s usually money involved: sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. On any given day, it’s likely that several members of your team will be playing. Watch out for injuries. Keep the right pitchers off the bench.
Fantasy sports give participants a reason to be even more involved in games that they normally might not pay much attention to. (“Now leaving ESPN on twenty-four/seven is totally justified!”) But whatever is the other half to do with all this new-found free time? How are we to satisfy our need to be involved, to compete, to obsess?
With corresponding singlemindedness and careful adherence to gender stereotyping, I’ve created my own version of this engrossing game: fantasy fashion.
Drafting begins eight days after Fashion Week (or, more accurately, weeks — there are four, in New York, London, Milan, and Paris) ends. This is kind of like spring training. Designers must be chosen for specific categories, like evening, resort, couture, denim, and shoes. The season starts when the collection is released, and scoring is based upon how well the collections sell (and in which stores), red carpet and party sightings (and on which personalities), and reviews from both industry insiders and gossipmongers. Women’s Wear Daily will be your Racing Form. The New York week just opened, and the Paris week wraps up in early March.
Let the games begin.
“I put him through my system, and Garrett Atkins is my number-one third baseman. I would have gone for Cabrera or Aramis Ramirez, but according to my little meat grinder here ... Who would have thought?”
“Proenza Shouler’s Target line: an egalitarian move, but what does this mean for their RTW?”
“Drew is a cry-baby. Anybody who has Scott Boras for an agent is only after money.”
“Jimmy Choo has been sold to a private equity firm.”
“Juan Pierre is one of the best outfielders going, but he had so many at-bats his average doesn’t look good.”
“Marc Jacobs moved ‘Marc’ to the London week — a last-minute plea for more time?”
“Anyone can homer in Colorado — the air is so thin.”
“Erin Featherston is derivative of herself.”
It’s a conversation, of sorts. And that may be the point of the whole thing. Finally, an end to those interminable silences so often shared by two women who have just met.
“Hey. Nice shoes. Who do you have starting for accessories?”